Friday 3 November 2017, 15:00-17:00hrs
This workshop aims to bring together PhD students from various disciplines who share a common interest in discussions on deep time and/or nuclear waste. While the term ‘deep time’ has been introduced by John McPhee as recently as 1981, the concept was developed more than two centuries ago in early modern British and Scottish and has undergone several transformations since (see for example Paolo Rossi 1984 and Martin J.S. Rudwick 1995, 2002). Back in the 18th century, the discovery that the earth must be much older than previously thought, challenged religious conceptions of time. In the last couple of years, the concept of deep time has gained unprecedented momentum with the Anthropocene debate that was kicked loose in the year 2000 by nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and his colleague Eugene Stoermer. The Anthropocene is the most recent proposed geological time period superseding the Holocene. With it, terms like the Anthropozoic (Antonio Stoppani, 1873), Psychozoic (Joseph Le Conte, 1879), and the Noosphere (Édouard Le Roy, 1927) that seeked to denote the far reaching impact of collective human activity on Earth, finally seemed to resonate with the vastness of geologic time, adding, moreover, a distinctly ecological edge to the debate.
Keeping in mind the many problems this term raises (and which have been addressed in previous sessions at the EHC), the Anthropocene urges us to think beyond human timescales without losing sight of our human legacy within them. One of the practices to which this kind of understanding is pertinent is the long-term storage of radioactive waste. Long-term storage of radioactive waste is not only a clear anthropogenic effect, it also brings us into proximity with deep time, and offers a glimpse into the interminable temporality of ecological debt. Radioactive waste points to a deep past (the Uranium Oxide that is used to fuel reactors is mined from deposits as old as the Earth) but importantly poses the challenge of engaging with a deep future as well, that is, the millennia to come in which waste elements like plutonium pose a threat to the living environment. It is a tricky challenge, not least because, leaving the practicalities aside for a moment, it is paradoxically much easier to imagine eternity than the ‘very large finitudes’ (Timothy Morton) of ten or even a hundred thousand years that these elements entail. In this workshop, we want to engage with the practical challenges these vast timeframes pose and speculate on nuclear waste’s aesthetico-political dimensions through a corpus scientific and cultural accounts.
As this is a rather specialised subject, we find it immensely important to connect to those who work in the field and share ideas, case studies, experiences and cookies. Our aim is thus to establish a small, but international community of peers to strengthen, widen, and deepen each other’s work. We, the organisers of this workshop, both come from the Humanities and work on contemporary art and philosophy, but we are open to other disciplines as this is a fairly interdisciplinary subject matter. If you want to be part please consider joining us in Amsterdam:
We scheduled a kick-off meeting for November 3, 2017, to close our event series, the Nuclear Waste Weeks, at the Environmental Humanities Center in Amsterdam. It will consist of two parts: the screening of two short films at 15:00 and a 1+ hour discussion of selected reading material that will be distributed beforehand, starting at 16:00. The readings are supposed to stimulate discussion and offer an entry point into our respective research projects. The meeting will be informal and, if there is a shared interest, the first in a series to discuss not only texts, but also offer a platform to present one’s own research.
The workshop is primarily geared towards PhD students, but ResMA students and (early career) researchers are welcome as well.
Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou (CRAL, EHESS Paris) and Anna Volkmar (LUCAS, University of Leiden)
The two short films we will be screening:
Julian Charrière, 2014, 15 minutes
Somewhere (2014) documents large planes of wilderness where the Soviet Union undertook their first nuclear tests (1949-1989). This area also known as ‘The Polygon’ is still extremely radioactively charged and has created continuous health issues in the neighbouring populations. Charrière films this space that has been polluted by mankind, a record into our past. (Written by Eva Sherly)
Nuclear Waste (Yaderni wydhody)
Myroslav Slaboshpitskyy, 2012, 23 minutes
Sergiy and Sveta live in Chernobyl. Sergey is a truck-driver at a radioactive wastes utilization plant. Sveta works at a radioactive decontamination laundry. Their work and their life are dictated by one unchangeable rhythm with clockwork precision. But what sets this mechanism in motion – day by day. (Written by Kristof Hoornaert)